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Masters of War

Groundtruth_3So while the Cher fan club is still in lock down, I make a different kind of Cher-related purchase today. I bought a copy of the documentary “The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends.” News reports this week have Cher promoting this documentary, trying to get 5,000 copies into the hands of active US soldiers abroad.

Patricia Foulkrod made the film about the soldier experience from recruitment to discharge, in particular—about the difficult experience of returning home from Iraq.

Allegedly the US military has prevented Cher’s distribution efforts to soldiers. I forwarded these reports and a film review to a close friend of mine who has worked closely with the Veterans Administration office in Los Angles and is well trained in the claims process.

We're going to watch this documentary so we can have a heated debate for the benefit of all Cher scholars. We've already discussed the issue of the distribution block. The problem might be due to the fact that the US government is unable to accept any kind of gift distributions or perceived political distributions of any kind by law, whether positive or negative. They can't even accept free tickets to pro-vet events. I'll debate this and other issues raised in the movie concerning possible gaps in benefits for returning soldiers and other perceptions about VA support.

If the military believes the documentary is an activist piece, many reviewers do not. Christopher Cambell says the film tries to be apolitical: “…to think of the film primarily in terms of politics would be unfair to its subjects, the vets who are simply looking for an outlet.” Read the full review.

Here is a synopsis of major reviews to date on the film which have mostly been good:

You can order a copy for yourself here: Ten percent of the proceeds go to another project Cher is passionate about: Operation Helmet.

This week I also received a Cher care-package from fellow Cher scholar Robrt Pela: a home-made bootleg of the unreleased Cher album from 1968, “Backstage.” Cher recorded a smattering of anti-war songs back in the 60s during the Vietnam War era (mostly Dylan-covers), but my favorite was the in-your-face “Masters of War.” I recently heard Mike Stinson do a good version of this song at the Cinemabar on Sepulveda in the Culver City area of LA. I’ve always loved the lyrics and Cher’s passionate punctuation of certain lines, especially the final ominous ones.

Masters of WarTalk4_1
by Bob Dylan

Come here masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothing
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like the Judas of old
You lie and deceive
This world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You can fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As the young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
A fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
And I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death will come soon
Well I will follow your casket
In a pale afternoon
Well I'll watch while you're lowered
Into your death's bed
And I'll stand over your grave
Till I'm sure that you're dead

These lyrics were found on the Russian Cher site:

Movie Director Robert Altman Passes

Altman_and_cher What is going on? First Rusty Dennis dies and now Robert Altman succumbs to cancer? It’s been a shocking two weeks of Cher-movie-related passings. Robert Altman! Where do you start? He’s an motion picture giant, and yet a Hollywood outsider. My Ape Culture co-hort (an Altman aficionado) did a very good job summarizing what it was that made his pictures landmark movies. Read her short piece about him.

I think there are four men who are pivotal in Cher’s Hollywood story. Sonny Bono was entirely responsible for masterminding a very unlikely, versatile, almost-vaudevillian songbird version of Cher. Then David Geffen untangled Cher from the contractual quagmires of Sonny-Bono-schemes after their divorce and gave Cher new avenues as a solo artist. That was no small job. All the while, Bob Mackie has been crucial in eliciting Cher's colorful personality with costumes that, decade to decade, define her iconic image. And Robert Altman is the father of Cher’s movie career. He “discovered” Cher as an actress. She was a rock star and a television star, but the movie people pooh-poo’d her for years. So, would we have an Oscar-winning Cher without Altman? I’m not so sure we would. In 1981, he took that first chance on Cher. He cast her in the Broadway role of Sissy in the Ed Graczyk play, “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” which was later turned into a movie. No one else wanted to give Cher movie roles although she had been trying to become an actress since the mid-70s…really, since she was a teenager, before she was derailed by Sonny Bono’s folk-rock ambitions. Which was lucky or we might not have had the folk/torch/pop/rock-star version of Cher today either.

So, not only did Altman give Cher’s acting career a shot, he did so with a juicy, dramatic role that gave Cher options for other Oscar-worthy roles to follow. Mike Nichols (who rejected Cher for a part in The Fortune) came backstage during the Broadway run of “Jimmy Dean” and asked her to play Dolly in Silkwood. Her performance in Silkwood helped the writer of Mask visualize her for the role of Rusty Dennis. Both roles proved to be dramatic, award-winning roles for Cher. So, if you’re a fan of Cher on the actress track, to Altman you owe your gratitude.

Cher’s performance of Sissy is really a wonderful thing to watch. She’s physically natural and emotionally raw. See my review of the movie on Cher Scholar. It’s another one of Cher’s best performances. I really hope there’s interview footage somewhere of Altman talking about how it all came together, that performance. And did he ever realize what a blockbuster, award-winning, virtually third career he ignited for Cher?

The photo above was taken at an AMFAR event.
Review the Altman ouvre.


Rusty Dennis, the FCC and Africa

People79 Whoa, Nelly! It’s 15 days since my last post! I feel terrible. I feel rusty already. No pun intended. Rusty Dennis, the woman Cher portrayed in Mask, died last week. We should all watch Mask in her honor. Rusty was one of Cher’s best performances. You can read my review is on Cher Scholar. I need to update it for the newest DVD release from last year. Interesting differences between the studio version and Peter Bogdanovich’s Director’s Cut. The new version has director’s commentary (a must for the truly obsessed), phenomenal background/deleted scenes (Cher singing even!) and Cher's plug for the CCA. As a humble Cher scholar, I feel the need to have both versions on my shelf. The differences between the two raise pertinent questions for film-theory discussion, including “How does background music affect the tone of the film.” This issue spelled controversy when the film was released and is a valid study on soundtracking and attention to detail. I saw Peter Bogdanovich give a talk last year on the film. He spoke in his affected way about prefering natural background music. He said a lot of other things which will be included in an article for the next Cher zine. But hey, this paragraph should be about Rusty! She was a hard-living character and the story of her life is sad. Besides Rockey (Roy) Dennis, who died in his teens, she had another son who died too young. To her credit, her death was big news on the AP this week which means people remember her character and care about the movie. Read the AP news story.

Hard news to follow; but the reason I’ve been so remiss in posting is--I moved last week. I now live near the beach in Venice, California. I moved all of 15 or so blocks. Still, there’s been a lot of drama surrounding this move. For one, I moved in with my boyfriend. Last month, my parents asked me pointed questions about this like “will their be a bed in the spare bedroom?” Apparently, they weren’t thrilled about my living in sin (Trivia alert: Cher sang backup for Gene Simmons' song "Living in Sin" in the late 70s). I heard about my parents' feelings officially through their next door neighbor who emailed me. I told my mother I was 37 and too old to be pure.

Cher is too, apparently. Recently, the FCC said they would like to take Cher and Nicole Richie and wash their mouths out with soap. Okay…maybe that was my mother who said that. Turns out, way back during the Believe era when Cher was on The Billboard Music Awards in 2002 getting a lifetime achievement award, she said “F*#k ‘em!” The FCC has reversed an earlier ruling and decided the F-word is not an approved word for television, whether it’s used as an exclamation, noun or adjective. I don’t remember the F-word incident at all and I watched the show live from my apartment in Yonkers, New York, a dump of a place right off the Hudson river. But it doesn’t surprise me that Cher would pick her first primetime lifetime achievement award to swear like a sailor. She’s got a f*#king potty mouth, that one! I remember when I was nine years old and sick with the flu. My parents brought that People Magazine with the Vegas outfit on the cover to cheer me up. It was riddled with “swear-outs.” I was so disillusioned. I had probably just had my own mouth washed out with soap days earlier, but it didn’t matter. Cher wasn't like me; she wouldn’t swear! She was a glamorous lady, above such gutter talk. It took me a few months to get over it; but then I decided, if those words were good enough for me and my mother (who said sh*t every time something broke), they were good enough for Cher.

Here are some excerpts from the article on the FCC ruling:

“Broadcasters have alleged that the FCC inconsistencies, combined with its more aggressive enforcement and Congress' tenfold hike in maximum indecency fines, to $325,000 per violation, have chilled the industry...In 2003, the FCC's staff concluded that the "F-word" was allowed as an adjective, rejecting complaints about U2 singer Bono's use of the word in that way during the 2003 Golden Globes Awards telecast.”

Bono gets away with murder!

“But in March 2004 — amid public outcry after Janet Jackson's breast was briefly exposed during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime telecast — the FCC reversed itself, ruling any variation of the "F-word" referred to sexual activity and was almost always indecent."

Damn it, but it all comes down to Janet Jackson’s boob! Read the entire article.

I’ve said sh*t and f*#k alot this week. For some reason my most recent move has come with its share of breakdowns. I’m not talking about my breakdowns of which there have been at least three. I’m talking about technology and apartment malfunctions. I broke my boyfriends shower head and his favorite ceramic soup ladle. All my remotes have inexplicably stopped working. For instance, to play a DVD, one must now turn on the stereo receiver first and set it to CD. Hang on because it never makes any more sense than this. Then, you have to turn on the VCR and put in a video cassette so the VCR will switch itself to VCR mode. Then you must turn the VCR channel to AUX and press play on the DVD player. It took me three days to figure it all out.

All that plus tons of job interviews, not to mention this is the busy social season. We’re also hosting a small Thanksgiving dinner this year for four. I’m swamped, I tell you, and I can’t catch my breath! I’ve had absolutely no time for Cher thoughts. And yet…they have accumulated in my head like uninvited little vagabonds.

It was just reported on BBC news that Cher plans to take an African trip to help Robert and Eleanor Wood buy land and build a school for some little Kenyans who have no food or pencils. It's really great that Cher has been focusing so much time on charity work lately. The US holiday Veterans Day a week or so ago reminds us about her contribution to The Fallen Heroes Fund. The BBC article claims Cher told Robert Wood, “...when I start a project, I finish it.” She couldn’t have said that, I feel. Surely not. Or I’d have a Mame DVD directly in front of my two Mask DVDs on the shelf above my inexplicably complex DVD/stereo system at my new apartment.


Chastity Catch-up

Chasandcher Well...still no fan club sign-in on the official website. I carry on. Maybe it's time to catch up on our Chastity Bono news.

  • Earlier this year, Chastity appeared on eight episodes of VH-1's Celebrity Fit Club Season 3. She lost weight alongside Cosby Show's Tempestt Bledsoe, Taxi's Jeff Conaway, Moesha's Countess Vaughn, Hollywood Squares' Bruce Vilanch, Kelly LeBrock, and rappers Young M.C. and  Bizarre. You can read my episode-by-episode account of the saga on Ape Culture. I did get engrossed in a marathon of season 2 one Sunday in 2005, but mostly I find this show to be kind of boring. Not as boring as Who Gets the Dog, mind you, but pretty slow nonetheless. Even worse, however, is the inane weight-loss blather the show tries to present as information. And the early episodes with Jeff Conoway seem to push the boundaries of celebrity-sploitation. The fact that there's one episode titled "The Meltdown" followed by another one titled "Jeff Goes Into Rehab" followed later by "Gunnar's Hair Cut" should speak volumes.

Chastity also appeared on A&E's Sell This House where she had her house in West Hollywood blinged-out for prospective buyers who had been hatin on it in prior showings. Vampin houses just aint Chas's thang like it is her mummys. I can relate cos collecting Christmas cookie jars aint my thang either. Although if my mom decides to part with her shot glass collection, I'll find storage space for that.

There are reports that Chastity is working on the development of a coming-out movie for the gay TV network here! Chas is co-writting "In the Name of Love" with Garth Belcon who wrote a 2004 movie called Froterz that Chastity appeared in. No word yet when this movie will be coming out, no pun intended.

Chastity has also talked about working on a  book about growing up with her parents, S&C. No word on the progress of this project either. Her previous books, The End of Innocence: A Memoir written with Michele Kort (2002) and Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming-Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, & Their Families written with Billie Fitzpatrick Fitzpatrick (1999) were both good reads.

Chastity really needs her own website. She has a Gene-Simmons-like amount of projects going on.

Signature Cher

AutobasicgI’m feeling sleepy tonight so I’ll keep this sucker short. Some news: CherWorld reports Cher is busy working on a new album and Diane Warren is rumored to be penning some of the material. If you’ve read my album reviews on Cher Scholar, you know I’m not a big fan of this 80s songstress. The hooks sound really simplistic to me and the lyrics really wack you over the head. “Turn back time. Find a way.” No nuance. No depth. Certainly no “My eyes saw red but the cards still stayed black” or “I play games now but it’s not fun” or “you’re as cool as Colorado, Orpheus on fire.” But hey, that’s just me. Warren is a true blue hit-maker. I'm sure a song by her would chart a new wing on the Cher compound.

There’s also continued rumbling today on the big Yahoo group about the fact that Cher has still not signed the hardback catalogs fans purchased over a month ago before the auction. Someone posted a Sotheby’s response email pleading like John Malkovic in Dangerous Liaisons: “It’s beyond my control.” Fans supporting Cher’s procrastinations of signature duty are claiming she was kind enough to sell you her stuff for thousands of dollars, give the diva some space to redecorate her yurt. I’m thinking, as a fan and as an auction house, you probably shouldn’t commit to sales of Cher-signed stuff until you have boxes of them in your hot little hands. I’m reminded of an old 80s Naked Eyes song called "Promises, Promises." ("You made me….promises, promises. Why did I believe???") That’s probably what Sotheby’s and some Cher fans without hardback catalogs are feeling right now. I’m beginning to feel for them, myself. Here’s an idea: print off the Cher signature in this post, white-out the date and Elmer-glue it to your paperback catalog. Write yourself something nice like “You are my number one fan and I’ll be over Sunday for tacos.” In thirty years when you open up your Cher box in the nursing home, you won't remember the difference. 

Also posted on Chergroups, this link to an Oprah After Show in 2004. Here Cher was put in a very awkward position when asked if she would attend the 2004 Cher Convention coming up in Las Vegas. She adeptly skirts the issue and scuttles on by it without giving even an opinion of the convention fundraiser. It’s certainly an odd thing about the convention: Cher never mentions it in any positive way and sort of exudes a vague sense of discomfort concerning it. I often wonder if Cher fans and Cher don’t mix at the end of the day. Interpersonally, she’s just too cool for her hard cores. Because they’re the sort of people who might get beat up at school or in the smoking lounge at work. By Cher.

And my mood is not helped any by seeing that awfully unfunny Chevy Sumo-Wrestler ad playing all the time with that very stilted version of "I Got You Babe." 

All in all, it was a very hard day to be a Cher fan.